This past Saturday I spent a day of enlightenment learning about the tiny lifestyle trend — living large in small houses. This trend is growing in popularity as people shake off the need for the McMansion as well as a natural pour-over from big city living.
The event was hosted by National Kitchen and Bath Association Arizona chapter at the Monark Premium Appliance Co. Scottsdale showroom. If you’ve never been to the Scottsdale showroom off of the Greenway-Hayden Loop, you should make a point of stopping in. It’s really quite fabulous. The Monark staff are highly skilled and courteous professionals who stand available to help you specify a curated collection of appliances for that perfect kitchen.
Besides offering a many choices of leading brands, including such premium appliances like Sub-Zero and Wolf, Viking, Bosch, Miele, GE Monogram, Dacor and more, the showroom hosts fabulous vignettes designed by local trade partners and filled with beautiful finishes like Cambria. You will find a variety of design styles displayed along with integrated dishwashers, refrigerators, cooktops, ranges, wall ovens, microwaves, and laundry machines to see how it all can come together.
Well as much as I love the showroom, I was there for the much coveted continuing education units being offered throughout the day. Janne Mahan, Professional Training & Coaching, BSH Home Appliances Corporation (on the right) presented. Janne happens to write all the CEUs for the company and is their official trainer. With that endorsement I knew the presentation on Living Large in Small Spaces would be something special.
I was particularly looking forward to this event because I’m a big house kind of gal. With a high level of curiosity I was hoping to walk away with a better understanding of why micro-living was so popular as a lifestyle and how to maximize space in general.
One of the first things Janne shared was the key to living in small houses. First off, if a pint-sized home is on your bucket list, then you need to change the way you think about your possessions or you’re destined for failure. It can no longer be about the things you have, but instead about how purposeful those things are. This translates to some serious purging and donating.
You also need to adjust the way you view space. Although very common in other countries, Americans have traditionally valued expansive spaces as they have become known as a sign of prosperity. Whether you choose to continue to live large or are exploring the downsizing trend, storage is always in short supply. Small houses just need a lot more creativity.
Source 1 / Source 2: Designer Tom Stringer via Houzz
Don’t overlook dead spaces.
Stairwells are a great source of hidden space. Consider landings and the space below them. You can add a sunken wine storage or extra blankets and pillows. The stair themselves offer hidden spaces for dresser drawers, an expansive shoe collection, or seasonal storage. Walls can also be a source of new-found storage with beds that fold down or hidden pantry cabinets, as well as toe-kicks for cookie sheets and cutting boards.
Don’t forget to look up.
In a small space you have to make every inch of floor space count and consider going up. Turn attic space into loft space. Put beds on pullies and raise out-of-the-way during the day. Hang bikes and other items from the ceiling and pull down to reach when needed.
Scale down furnishings and appliances.
We also discussed how important it is to scale down furnishings and appliances. Bosch has a line of smaller sized appliances like a 24” wall oven that recesses flush with the cabinetry as well as an 18” dishwasher with a 3rd shelf that maximizes interior space by 30%. Washers and dryers as narrow as 24” that stack to take advantage of unused overhead space. These are just a few of the many advances manufacturers are making to accommodate the tiny trend.
Let the sun shine in.
Janne suggested a key part of tiny living was to let the light in. Light gives a feeling of expanse. In order to make small homes feel more spacious take advantage of window walls and glass doors. Let in the light as well as maximize the view of plants, trees, and outdoor patios. With less interior space comes more time to nurture that inner green thumb of yours.
Doll it up.
It goes without saying that costs are considerably less on tiny homes in heating, cooling, but also adornment. Splurge and add shutters, window boxes, railings, and decorative trims. Face it the house is cute, take advantage and go all out on the trimmings.
If you browse the internet you will see some small houses on wheels. So what is the difference between “miniature” living and “mobile” home living? The big difference is that small homes are just that, small. Other than that, tiny dwellings are just like their full-sized models. Mobile homes are modular.
Apparently small houses are great for solar panels. Think about it a few panels on your roof and do you really need anything else? For those still adverse to solar panels, Janne shared another growing trend — solar panels being a much sought after house feature. In fact install them in a semi-upright position to show them off! Solar panels are standing proud as trends heads toward forgetting those unsuccessful attempts to hide them on the roof.
The money-sense side of downsizing is obvious with lower taxes, lower insurance, utilities and mortgages. As well as some not so known facts. Small houses have a greater resale value that their full-sized counterparts. If you ask any realtor what color should you paint your walls to sell a home they will most likely say white or beige. Not because they are the best wall colors out there, although some will say it is. But because the thought of having to go through the time, cost, and mess of repainting a large home is a huge deterrent for a home buyer. Small houses require less paint, less time, and considerably less mess.
So just who is downsizing?
According to Janne tiny homes are perfect as guest houses, for adult children returning home, for commuters that work in other states other than the one of their primary dwelling, empty-nesters, retirees, newly single adults, seasonal dwellers, as well as young couples starting out are all good candidates for small houses.
I think my favorite thought shared by Janne was how having a newly married child and their spouse move into a small house on the property can have a generational impact on the neighborhood appearance. The younger couple who is more focused on friends and work doesn’t necessarily need the burden of taking care of a large home yet they enjoy the benefits. As time goes on and their family grows, they move into the larger home and the parents move into the smaller home. The grandparents are then able to enjoy their growing family, yet travel unencumbered with property concerns, and have the freedom from home maintenance.
Interested in reducing your living footprint? See a recent article by azcentral.com to learn more about this tiny topic on a local level.